Participatory journalism defined
J.D. Lasica points to a great discussion of participatory journalism at Hypergene MediaBlog. This underscores the need for an ethics debate about blogs, since the assumption is that participatory journalism "relies on either community host [the blogger] or community of participants [informed readers] to define and police ethics, values and credibility."
The definition is....
Participatory Journalism: When a citizen, or group of citizens, plays an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, comprehensive and relevant information that a democracy requires.
Except for the medium of distribution and overhead required to collect and analyze data, this could be a description of journalism. Not to say that blogging (if that's what we'll even call it in the end) is journalism, but that the responsibility that comes from addressing an audience is similar. I very much like this comment from John Seely Brown of Xerox PARC in an essay on The Elements of Journalism:
"In an era when anyone can be a reporter or commentator on the Web, 'you move to a two-way journalism' John Seely Brown suggests. The journalist becomes a 'forum leader,' or a mediator rather than simply a teacher or lecturer. The audience becomes not consumers, but 'pro-sumers,' a hybrid of consumer and producer."
When I was a journalist (you can hear the grey hair talking) I always went to great pains to answer every call or letter from a reader -- still do today, so that may be why I don't see the distinction that many folks are hollering about. Talking with and debating my readers helped me understand them better, sharpened my understanding of the topic and, more importantly, kept my wit sharp. Some folks take this as rude, but I don't know of a notable wit that succeeded by keeping their thoughts to themself.
The irony of blogging is that it makes it harder to respond, because it is hard to find every reference to my comments; they used to come to my email inbox, but now they are spread all over. The referrer log doesn't cut it, because it relies on actual linking taking place, and many times comments are not linked.
If we want a dialog, we need an easier way to track the spread of ideas we engender/ignited/tossed out. Backlinking is effective, but requires discipline by bloggers or the trail quickly disappears. (See this excellent posting about backlinking by Denise Howell.) Google still lags behind the actual state of the Web, so it isn't up to the challenge, yet. A kind of Reverse RSS with a Google-driven context engine that ties a blogger's work to other items that might have a relation to it, from their day job to articles they wrote years before on mailing lists, is what I am thinking....
This would give us the tools as readers to better study the sources we rely on, how they think and what kind of conflicts they may either disclose or hide. That would be progress from old journalism (by saying this, I am not saying blogging is journalism), where you would seldom even have contact with the reporter who covered the news.Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at October 29, 2002 05:21 PM | TrackBack